Ramada: you can freeze to death and eat soggy cake!*

*To be fair, the soggy cake was not Ramada’s fault.

Neither of us slept last night, not more than a couple of hours.  The bed was super uncomfortable, the kids didn’t leave the pool for at least an hour after we went to bed, some light (maybe from the A/C unit) was glowing too brightly, and I was fuh-REEZING.  I can’t sleep when I’m shivering, there weren’t any extra blankets, and we were too tired to figure out the A/C plus it was mounted really high on the wall.  We were both awake an hour before the alarm went off, awake enough that we just got up at 3:30 instead of waiting for it, and then our flight to Seattle was too short for napping (only 30 minutes in the air).  We are going to crash so hard tonight.

So with the uncomfortable bed, the mildewy smell in the room, and a couple of other things, I think I have validated my resistance to Ramada hotels over the years.  I mean, last night the price was right and obviously it was okay, but given a choice, I’ll choose something else.

The last time I can remember staying in a Ramada was for our first anniversary, 2001, in San Diego.  John and I had just driven across the country for the first time, moving from Newport, RI to San Diego to get to my first ship.  We didn’t have a place to live yet; the plan was to find an apartment within the first few days and stay in cheap hotels in the meantime.  When we got there, we spent a night or two in a Motel 6 (where one night I got up around 3am and got in the shower because I thought it was morning), and then decided to splurge on the Ramada for our anniversary night.

Mom had packed the top layer of our wedding cake in dry ice for the cross-country trip.  The dry ice lasted until we got to San Diego, and then we replaced it with regular ice for the last day or two.  We realized that might have been a bad idea when we started to unwrap it in the hotel room.  There was some dripping, and we moved to the bathroom sink.

First layer of aluminum foil: water from the ice. No big deal.  Next layer of foil: more water.  Next later of wax paper: water and a few crumbs.  That’s when we started to worry.  Next layer (foil or wax paper – can’t remember): more water, more crumbs.  When we finally got to the actual cake it was pretty water-logged.  The middle was still edible, but I can’t say it was good.  Still – we ate it.  I mean, not the whole thing, but enough to count.

The beginning

Our trip has begun!  Sort of.  Tonight is Erev Trip, or maybe that was last night.  Our flight from Portland to Seattle is at 6am tomorrow, so we’re doing the park-sleep-fly thing in the airport Ramada tonight.  The airport Ramada is…not so great, but it’ll do for a night.  The biggest issue is that it’s 8pm and our shuttle leaves the hotel at 4:20am so we’re getting up before 4am and we need to go to bed but it’s still broad daylight outside and our room overlooks the pool and there are kids playing in it and tomorrow is going to SUCK.  But we’ll be on vacation!  It’ll be a bearable kind of suck.

REAL winter vacation

For the first time in YEARS, I’m about to take a vacation and NOT THINK ABOUT WORK.  I am not responsible for any kind of support team.  I’m not responsible for any people.  I’m not responsible for making sure any help desks have coverage.  I am actually able to take this time off and NOT THINK ABOUT WORK.  The only other times I’ve managed that, I’ve had to leave the country.

This is going to be great!  (If only I weren’t sick.)  It’ll be great!

I just don’t get why

I was only disappointed by one thing at Disney World – we missed the Main Street Electrical Parade.  They don’t do it every night anymore (and they didn’t do it the nights we were at the Magic Kingdom), and they’re moving it to only Disneyland after October 9th this year (thank you, Brian, for breaking the news to us).  There’s a Fantasyland parade they do every day at 3pm, but it’s not the same.  First of all, it’s at 3pm.  Second of all, it’s mostly princesses and not much else (from what I remember, anyway).  I mean, I liked it, and the mechanical Maleficent-as-dragon is pretty darn cool, but nothing can replace the Main Street Electrical Parade.

Oh no!  I just looked it up, and it’s only going to Disneyland for a “limited-time encore engagement.”  What the hell, Disney?  You can’t retire that parade!  Maybe there’s a petition I can sign.


We went into every gift shop in each of the three Disney parks we visited.  That’s not an exaggeration – we went into every single one.  For the most part, they carry the same stuff.  Ride gift shops had some ride-specific toys and shirts, and the other shops had some park-specific stuff, but mostly they were the same.  The World Showcase shops in Epcot had the most variation, and it was there I saw the most disturbing thing.

We were in fake Mexico, in the fake market inside.  I leaned forward to look at an anklet, and then threw myself backwards when I got a closer look at the mannequin ankle it was displayed on.  (I may have overreacted a bit, but it took me by surprise.)


It’s unnerving, right?  Is it a heeled shoe with toes?  A bare foot with a built-in heel?  Makes me shudder just thinking about it.  Someone miscalculated with this one.

Disney convenience

If you stay at a Disney resort, they send you a Magic Band (which I have already shown you) that acts as your park ticket, your room key, and your FastPass (skipping long lines for rides), and if you link your credit card to it (and a PIN), you can use it to pay for EVERYTHING.  (If you don’t stay at a resort, you can still buy one and use it the same way.)  It was incredibly convenient, and it meant we could really pare down what we had to carry.  It’s making me reconsider services like Google Wallet and Apple Pay.  There are still security concerns, and I’d always have to have my phone, but I always DO have my phone.  Obviously, there are still places that don’t use those services, so I couldn’t use it all the time, but I’m willing to bet it’ll become more and more common, just like it’s more and more common for even street vendors to take credit cards.  It’s something I’m thinking about, anyway.

It didn’t rain ALL the time

Earlier in our Epcot day, we had actual sunshine and clear skies (well, by midday it was clear – it went downhill from there). We got to the park mid-morning and headed straight to fake France for coffee and croissants.


After breakfast we went back to the front of the park (the fake-future part) to see Spaceship Earth and The Land and The Sea, where we found these guys.

Then we went back to the World Showcase and got rained on.

Taking advantage of the rain

I mentioned the rain the day we went to Epcot, right?  Well, I forgot I had proof on video. While everyone with any sense was hiding out under every structure with a roof in the park, one duck took the opportunity to scout for food.

We were hoping for a break in the rain so I could make a dash for the nearest bathroom. Over the course of our four days in Disney parks, I got very familiar with the bathrooms. Surprisingly, the one in fake Canada was the worst. Fake Morocco’s was great.

Not ready for it to be over

(Written on the plane, posted later)

At the end of most vacations, while I haven’t been happy for the vacation to end, I’ve been happy to be going home, or at least ready for it. Not so much with this one. I’m not sure what’s different. I’ve hardly thought about work, and I still have days before I have to, so I don’t think it’s work avoidance. I’m not reluctant to go back to Oregon – I like it there, and there are things I’m planning to do once we get home. As much as I love Disney World and I hated to leave it last night (even though it was POURING DOWN RAIN again during the fireworks and as we were leaving), we had done everything there was to do, so I don’t feel like I’m missing anything by leaving it. But after fewer than four hours of sleep, a five-and-a-half hour cross-country flight, and a two-hour layover in LAX, I was fighting this urge to postpone our flight to Oregon for a couple of days and check out LA. Maybe it’s sleep deprivation. I overcame that urge and got on the plane to Portland, and we’re not even going straight home, so I don’t really know what I’m talking about anymore. Maybe it’s sleep deprivation. The plan is to spend the afternoon and night in Portland (bedtime will be SO early), meet up with Will and Christina in the morning, and go to this fairy/fantasy-themed festival thing tomorrow. I’m picturing a renaissance fair with fairies, but I don’t really know what it’ll be like. I’ll let you know how it goes. THEN we go home.

Oh, but now I’m on the plane to Portland, NOT sitting next to John because the airline surprised us with upgrades to first class. I have no idea why we got the upgrades, and I’m not complaining. I can manage being two rows away from him for less than three hours. American is my new favorite airline.

I usually have Disney songs within easy reach in my brain (most of the time it’s “Part of Your World” and “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes”), but for the last three days, I’ve been cycling through “Let It Go”, “Be Our Guest”, and “We Can Fly”. Can’t get rid of them. Not sure I want to (although “Let It Go” is free to go away whenever it wants). Maybe it’s sleep deprivation.

I probably won’t have time to write tomorrow, but hopefully I’ll be back to my regular posting schedule by Sunday. With pictures.

Tropical storm woes

Gulf-side tropical storms are trying to put a damper on our vacation.  (Get it?  Damper?  Eh, who needs ya.)  We got a full-out downpour at Epcot yesterday, and plenty of rain in the Magic Kingdom today, including first thing when we walked out of the hotel.  Ponchos were useful, but our shoes got SOAKED.  John is taking the hair dryer to them now.  The rain didn’t stop the fireworks, though, and they were wonderful.  One more day in the Magic Kingdom, and then we head back to Oregon.

Sigh.  I love the Magic Kingdom.  Pictures to come later because I’m too lazy to transfer them.

Fun facts from the Hard Rock Hotel

The mirror in our room at the Hard Rock Hotel marks how tall various rock stars are.  I’m happy to know that I am taller than Madonna (she’s 5’4″) and surprised that Beyonce and I are the same height.  Twins, right?  Adele is taller than me – had no idea she was 5’9″.  John was relieved to see he’s taller than Justin Timberlake and a bit annoyed to find out he’s the same height as James Taylor.


When we were in Orlando four years ago, we went to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal with Ryan, and it was amazing.  THEN, Universal added a whole new section, and it’s BETTER.  It’s bigger, and it’s perfect. The first part, the part we’d seen before, is Hogsmeade and Hogwarts.  The new part is Diagon Alley, and the reveal as you walk in is just like in the movies.  Takes your breath away (and maybe I got a little happy-teary).  I’m not going to tell you everything or show you pictures because you have to go and see it for yourself.

If you’re meh about Harry Potter, you’ll be meh about this, but for the rest of us…it was amazing.

Vacation reading plan

Yes, I have a vacation reading plan.  I finished my last library book Sunday night, so Monday I picked my tablet up again (Kindle app) for the first time in months.  I’ve got my tablet with me for most of my reading needs (plane, nighttime, plane again), and I picked up a couple of used paperbacks before we left as backups for poolside reading and in case my tablet’s battery dies on the plane (which is entirely possible – I will be looking for an actual Kindle soon).

This is all assuming I’ll be doing a lot of reading, which is actually less likely than normal.  Yes on the plane and in the airports during our multiple layovers, but will we spend much time at the pool when we have Universal and Disney to explore (and wedding stuff to do)?  Probably not. Will we be exhausted when we get back to hotel room at night?  Probably.  BUT.  I like to be prepared.  I can think of few things worse than having downtime and no book to read.  Hence the plan.

Who’s rushing?

We got to Orlando late last night (after midnight), found our way to a hotel near the airport, and crashed.  This morning (Thursday) we slept in a little and then transferred to the Hard Rock Hotel, which is WAY COOL.  Our room wasn’t ready (we were early), so we left our bags and walked over the City Walk just outside Universal Studios.  Got a drink, and now we’re sitting outside in the shade with a breeze, just sitting.  Reading a little.  People-watching a little.  We’re waiting for our room, waiting to hear back from Evans and other friends about when John can try on his tux, just waiting.  No pressure, no rush.  Sure, we want to get into the park, but Evans has the tickets and if that happens later or tomorrow, no big deal.

Like, really, no big deal.  It’s life-changing.

U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” just came on and you can see the tension leave both of us.  Happy vacation, us.


Because vacation is magic

(Written Tuesday night)

All of my stress is going to melt away as soon as we get on our plane.  I know it will.  Because it will.  Tuesday was for laundry and packing.  Wednesday morning is for running around the house trying to figure out what I haven’t packed.  Later Wednesday morning will be for getting in the car with enough time to get to Portland, park in long-term parking, and get to the airport.  Drop off our luggage, get through security, hopefully not have to sprint for the gate, and then?  Then peace.  Then reading.  THEN NO MORE STRESS.  No stress for a whole week and a half.

I need this.  You can’t take it away from me.

We’re going to Disney World!

We are going on an honest-to-god vacation TOMORROW.  Our road trip across the country was kinda fun, but we were moving – it doesn’t count as a vacation.  This will be the first trip we’ve taken together in quite some time that didn’t have some other motive, and it is way overdue.  Okay, fine.  There’s another motive, but only for the first three days.  John’s friend Ryan is getting married, and he lives in Orlando, so we’re going for the wedding (which is going to be so fun) and THEN we’re going to Disney World.

I’m so excited.  I love Disney World.  We’re staying at a Disney resort (I KNOW!), so we get EXTRA SPECIAL STUFF like Extra Magic Hours and…other stuff, I’m sure, but it’s the Extra Magic Hours that I care about.  And because we’re staying in a resort, we get these fancy wristbands that work as our room keys and our park tickets and we can pay for stuff with them and EVERYTHING.  AND THEY HAVE OUR NAMES ON THEM.  AND I GOT TO CHOOSE THE COLORS.  LOOK!!!!!!


Okay, I’m excited.  I will be singing Disney songs for days.

But the wedding, yeah.  The wedding will be fun.  (For real – stay tuned for maximum fun.)

(I need this vacation so bad.)